Monday, October 26, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 10/23/2015

"Shields and Brooks on Clinton’s Benghazi testimony, Paul Ryan’s speaker potential" PBS NewsHour 10/23/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi, Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run in 2016, Rep. Paul Ryan stepping into the race for Speaker of the House, and new higher poll numbers for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in Iowa.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  So, Benghazi hearings, David, they went — I don’t know that it was 11, but it was eight or nine hours of testimony.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What have we learned?  What was accomplished at this hearing?

DAVID BROOKS:  Nothing was learned.

We learned that the Republicans can’t stump Hillary Clinton.  She was composed, gave a lot of the same testimony she’s given before.  This thing has been going on forever.  And so nothing happened, really.  And so that’s good news for her.

She — her composure was excellent. Congressmen do what congressmen do.  And so it was a big nothing burger.  And why the Republicans remain obsessed with this, at a time when the nation of Iraq has ceased to exist, Syria barely exists, there’s turmoil spreading throughout the Middle East — if you want to attack Hillary Clinton, it seems to me she was secretary of state at a time of deterioration in actual substantive grounds.  Maybe that would be a good subject.

But there is a certain psychosis that goes through people’s minds, especially about scandals, but Clinton scandals, where they — where something smells, and they think there must be something big, and they imagine there is about to be some big revelation that will destroy their careers.  But, since 1991, that has never happened, and the critics have always overshot the mark and ended up helping the candidate.  And that’s what happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  They have survived some challenges in the past, the Clintons, but, Mark, nothing burger, is that what it adds up to?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  I would feel better if it were just the Clintons with the Republicans. I think this has been — for the past seven years of the Obama administration, it has been an obsession that — to prove not simply that the administration is not capable or efficient or effective, but that somehow it’s evil, maybe even criminal.

And that’s what was driving this Benghazi hearing, that somehow that there was some evil plot or evil scheme or diabolical whatever.  The emphasis on Sid Blumenthal, who was a…

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Her longtime friend.

MARK SHIELDS:  Yes, longtime friend, controversial, a conspiracy buff, an apparatchik, whatever else he is, but, I mean, hardly somebody of Rasputin dimensions that they wanted to elevate him to.

And in doing so, they were forced to go public with this hearing, which they didn’t want to do.  They looked bad.  They had

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Meaning the Republicans.

MARK SHIELDS:  The Republicans looked bad.

Hillary Clinton looked disciplined.  She showed remarkable stamina.  She showed thorough preparation.  And she never went for the bait.  The bait was to get her to do what she had done in the previous hearing, to show exasperation, to display temper.

And she just — she came off it, to use an adjective, presidential.  And I just think — I just think that the Republicans ought to drop this and move on, but I think it is — I think it is symptomatic of a party that is incapable of accepting its governing responsibility.
MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I was surprised (Joe Biden not running), because I didn’t know.

Everybody who said they knew who was talking didn’t know, and everybody who apparently knew wasn’t talking.  But I didn’t know that he wasn’t going to run.

I will say this about Joe Biden.  His absence means that the happy warrior will be missing from the Democratic battle this year.  That’s what Joe — Joe Biden has personally at least 35 percent of the world’s known reserve of authenticity.


MARK SHIELDS:  And we’re looking for the authentic.

Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who is himself a presidential candidate and an active partisan, said of Joe Biden, if you don’t like Joe Biden, you ought take a serious look at yourself, because there is something wrong with you.

He is the nicest person I have ever met.  God never made a better man than Joe Biden.  This was before Joe Biden pulled out.  This was just in an interview in Iowa a couple — a month or so ago.  So I just think it takes a lot of courage to run.  It takes a lot more courage to pull out.  And I just — I will miss him and his presence in this race.

SYRIA - That Sucking Sound

"Is progress being made on a political solution in Syria?" PBS NewsHour 10/23/2015


SUMMARY:  Secretary of State John Kerry met with counterparts from Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to work on finding a political settlement for the Syrian conflict, following a Moscow meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the state of play between the U.S. and Russia.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Secretary of State John Kerry met in Vienna today with his counterparts from Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in a renewed quest to find a political settlement for the war in Syria.

He spoke to reporters afterwards.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  Today, we came here aware of all of the pitfalls, aware of all of the hurdles.  Every foreign minister here has been wrestling with this issue for a period of time.  But we came here with a commitment to try to find new ideas for how to break the impasse and end the conflict.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  This came after an agreement Monday between the U.S. and Russian militaries on how to avoid accidental midair collisions as both countries bomb Syria.  And also that day, Syrian President Assad met with President Putin in Moscow.  It was the first time Assad has left Syria since the war began in 2011.

For more on the state of play between the U.S. and Russia over Syria, we turn to NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner, who has been following all of this.

Margaret, thank you.

So, we know that the U.S., Russia and these other countries have been trying for two years, at least, to talk about, to find a political settlement. No results. Today any different?

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  It’s very hard to tell, Judy.

The one thing that indicates there maybe progress is that they agreed they are going to meet again next week, at the end of next week.  Well, when Secretary Kerry said, well, people brought a lot of new ideas, publicly, we heard no new ideas.  What we heard was the same mantra: We all agree it should be a united Syria, it should be democratic, and secular, and be diverse.

But there was no resolution of this huge hump over Assad’s future.  And, you know, Turkey and Saudi want him gone now.  Russia wants — afraid of the chaos that could result if he were to fall precipitously and wants him to stay.  The U.S. is the only one that has shown nay leg on that.  It was pretty clear from what Kerry said today that the U.S. is willing to consider a transition in which Assad may remain for a while.

FACT CHECK - Benghazi Spin

"Partisan Spin on Benghazi" by Eugene Kiely, 10/22/2015

The Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Benghazi committee each distorted the facts during TV appearances to discuss the committee’s work:

  • GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy was asked what “new facts” his committee discovered that seven other committees did not. Referring to the many other investigations into the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Gowdy asked “how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails?”  But other committees did obtain some of Stevens’ emails – including a June 7, 2012, email that Gowdy cited in the interview.
  • Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings praised former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for giving the State Department thousands of work-related emails that she sent and received from her personal email account.  Cummings added that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not turn over “one page” of her emails.  But Rice had none to turn over; she didn’t use a personal email account for government business.

Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Oct. 18 — four days before Hillary Clinton’s scheduled Oct. 22 appearance before the committee.

Stevens’ Emails

Four Americans, including Stevens, were killed during Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a temporary diplomatic facility and a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.  The House authorized the creation of the special Benghazi committee in a May 8, 2014, vote, although by that time seven other congressional committees had investigated the attacks.

John Dickerson, the host of “Face the Nation,” asked Gowdy what “new facts” his committee has uncovered that the others did not.

Dickerson, Oct. 18:  Tell us about the new facts.  One of the charges against your committee is there have been seven hearings — seven investigations in Congress already.  Why have another one.  What new facts have you got that rebuts that charge?

Gowdy:  You know, John, I do hear that there have been seven, which makes me smile because I wonder, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails?  None of the seven previous committees bothered to access the e-mails of our ambassador.

So, if you want a window into Libya and what was happening in the weeks and months before these four were killed, why would you not look at the ambassador’s e-mails?  He was a prolific e-mailer.  I will give you a one-week time period in June.  He’s just been put in place as the ambassador, just accepted, on June the 7th.  And he is already asking for more security.  He knows that there’s an uptick in violence and he’s asking for more security.

On almost exactly that day, John, he is asked to read and respond to an e-mail from [Clinton friend and former adviser] Sidney Blumenthal, who knows nothing about Libya.  So, he’s asking for security.  And [former deputy chief of staff and director of policy planning] Jake Sullivan in Washington is asking our ambassador the day after our facility was attacked with an IED to read and respond to an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal.

The other committees did not “miss” Stevens’ emails.  During the course of their investigations, other committees did have access to at least some emails and cables sent and received by Stevens — who became ambassador on May 22, 2012, and served in that capacity for less than four months.

In fact, the June 7, 2012, email cited by Gowdy on “Face the Nation” was discussed during Clinton’s testimony on Jan. 23, 2013, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  That email also appears in a Benghazi timeline released by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in January 2014.

The intelligence committee timeline shows that Stevens on June 7, 2012, exchanged emails with a State Department official (identified in another House report as John Moretti) about the security situation in Libya. In the email, Stevens requests to retain the services of two Mobile Security Deployments (MSD) around the time of the July 7, 2012, Libyan elections:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ambassador Stevens made a personal plea for an increase in security.  In a June 2012 email, he told a Department official that with national elections in July and August, the Mission “would feel much safer if we could keep two MSD teams with us through this period [to support] our staff and [personal detail] for me and the [Deputy Chief of Mission] and any VIP visitors.”  The Department official replied that due to other commitments and limited resources, “unfortunately, MSD cannot support the request.”

There were other emails and cables from Stevens, too.  A House intelligence committee report dated Jan. 15, 2014, said the committee reviewed “thousands of intelligence reports and internal documents (including e-mails, cables, etc.) which were provided by the IC, the State Department, and DoD.”  That report discusses an Aug. 16, 2012, cable sent by Stevens regarding the security situation in Libya.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole in an October 2012 press release refers to cables he said were sent by Stevens on June 25, 2012, and Aug. 8, 2012.  Cole also refers to a cable that was approved by Stevens on the day of the attack, Sept. 11, 2012.

As Cole notes, the documents were obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — of which Gowdy is a member:

Cole, Oct. 29, 2012:  Documents released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform show growing concern on the part of Ambassador Stevens and his staff regarding the worsening security situation.  In a cable from June 25 titled “Libya’s Fragile Security Deteriorates,” Ambassador Stevens wrote, “From April to June, Libya also witnesses an increase in attacks targeting international organizations and foreign interests.”  Stevens goes on to list six of the multiple attacks that had already occurred, including an attack on a U.N. official in Benghazi, an IED explosion at the consulate compound, and a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the British ambassador’s convoy.  Stevens stated that his contacts in the area informed him that “Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities.”

Another cable from August 8 mentions “a series of violent incidents” and warns that the local security forces the Obama administration was to rely on to protect our diplomats “has not coalesced into a stabilizing force and provides little deterrence.”  On the day of his murder, Stevens reiterated the warning, citing a commander with Benghazi’s Supreme Security Council who “expressed growing frustration with police and security forces (who were too weak to keep the country secure).”

Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi committee, issued a press release recently that listed six other emails and cables, to which other committees had access, that were sent or received by Stevens, including some prior to Stevens’ appointment as ambassador.

Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Gowdy and the Republican majority members on the Benghazi committee, told us that Gowdy did not say that the other committees did not have any of Stevens’ emails.  “Chairman Gowdy said the committee was the first to ‘access’ them,” Ware said, adding that the committee asked for all of Stevens’ emails from March 2011 to Sept. 11, 2012, the day of the attack.

Ware is splitting hairs.  Although other committees did not ask specifically for Stevens’ emails, they did ask the State Department for documents related to the Benghazi attacks, which would include emails and cables sent and received by Stevens.

“Prior committees investigating the attacks in Benghazi had long had access to a significant volume of emails and documents to and from Ambassador Stevens,” Alec Gerlach, a spokesman for the State Department, told us in an email.  Although typically, Gerlach said, the congressional requests were made by “specific subject matter, and not to specific current or former Department employees.”

Also, Gowdy’s claim wasn’t simply that his committee was the only one to specifically ask for Stevens’ emails.  He said the other committees missed Stevens’ emails and hadn’t “bothered to access” them.  Clearly, they had access to key emails and cables sent or approved by Stevens regarding the security situation in Libya prior to the attacks.

Clinton and Rice

For his part, Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi committee, made an apples-to-oranges comparison when praising Clinton for cooperating with the committee investigation.  He noted, correctly, that Clinton turned over “tens of thousands” of work-related emails to the State Department — emails that Clinton had sent and received from her personal email account and stored on a private server.  But then he claimed that Condoleezza Rice hadn’t “turned in one page.”

Cummings, Oct. 18:  Well, keep in mind, keep in mind that Hillary Clinton has turned in tens of thousands of pages of e-mails, more than any other secretary in the history of our country, secretary of state in the history of country.  And keep in mind Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have not turned in one page.

That’s a distortion.  Unlike Powell and Clinton, Rice did not use a personal email account for government business, so she had no emails to give to the State Department, according to the State Department.

At a March 10 press briefing, then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the department requested work-related emails from four previous secretaries of state: Clinton, Powell, Rice and Madeleine Albright.  She then discussed the responses the department received from Rice, Powell and Albright.

Psaki, March 10:  Former Secretary Rice – I’m just going to go through all of them if that’s okay – responded to the Department’s letter and informed us that she did not use personal email for official business.  Early in March of this year, General Powell advised – and I think he’s spoken to this publicly as well – that he used a personal email account during his tenure as secretary of state.  He did not take any hard copies of emails with him when he left office and has no record of the emails, with the account he used having been closed for a number of years.  Former Secretary Albright advised that she did not use email as secretary and has no records in her possession.

We should also note that although Powell did use a personal email account, rather than the government email system, he did not store his emails on a private server.  Powell, who was secretary of state from January 2001 to January 2005, said he did not have any emails to turn over.

FACT CHECK - Jeb on Obama

"Bush Attacks Obama, With All Due Respect" by Robert Farley, 10/13/2015

Jeb Bush claims that President Obama “believes that America’s leadership and presence in the world is not a force for good.”  But we found 19 instances of Obama describing the U.S. as “a force for good,” or something very similar.

Bush’s remark, which he made on Sept. 30 in a campaign appearance in New Hampshire, is featured in a new ad from Right to Rise, a super PAC backing Bush’s presidential bid.  Right to Rise says that it is running the foreign-policy-centered ad on Fox News and is backing it with a more than $1 million buy.

The ad begins with images of Obama alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, as Bush tells the New Hampshire audience, “This President, with all due respect, believes that America’s leadership and presence in the world is not a force for good.”  Bush then makes the case that America has to provide leadership and “stand for the values of freedom” — including support for Christians in the Middle East, for dissidents in Iran and for Israel.

As for Bush’s claim that Obama “believes that America’s leadership and presence in the world is not a force for good,” we recalled Obama saying many times that he thought the country was — often in those very words.  We did a quick search of Obama’s public statements, and here’s a sampling of what we found:

“But what [Americans] share is a common creed, a common commitment to freedom, a common commitment to rule of law, a common belief that America is an indispensable force for good around the world, and that our military is a linchpin in our ability to project our values alongside our diplomatic efforts, our economy, and the people-to-people relations that helped to spread those core beliefs that all of you are willing to sacrifice for.”
Obama at a town hall meeting at Fort Meade, Sept. 11, 2015

“One of those convictions was [King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s] steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”
statement by Obama on the Death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Jan. 22, 2015

“Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.
statement by the president on the Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dec. 9, 2014

“Today our forces are helping to support the civilian effort against Ebola in West Africa, a reminder, as [former Secretary of Defense] Chuck [Hagel] likes to say, that America’s military is the greatest force for good in the world.”
remarks by the president on the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Nov. 24, 2014

“I’m very proud of the United States.  I believe that the United States is a force for good around the world.”
remarks by Obama at the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall, Nov. 14, 2014

“And for all those reasons, the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.”
remarks by Obama at MacDill Air Force Base, Sept. 17, 2014

“You [veterans] helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest Democratic, economic and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”
remarks by Obama to the American Legion National Convention, Aug. 26, 2014

“And someday, future generations, whether 70 or 700 years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.”
remarks by Obama at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day — Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 2014

“And like generations before us, the United States of America is going to remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.”
remarks by Obama at Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 7, 2013

“When our allies across the Asia Pacific know — as we have proven in Korea for 60 straight years — that the United States will remain a force for peace and security and prosperity — that’s a victory; that’s your legacy.”
— remarks by Obama at the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, July 27, 2013

“And today we can say that our country is a better and a stronger force for good in the world because, more and more, we are a people that serve.”
remarks by Obama at Points of Light Award Ceremony, July 15, 2013

The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known. … More broadly, around the globe we’ve strengthened alliances, forged new partnerships, and served as a force for universal rights and human dignity.”
— remarks by the president on the Defense Strategic Review, Jan. 5, 2012

“And the United States of America –and our Armed Forces — will remain the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.”
— remarks by Obama at the “Change of Office” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ceremony, Sept. 30, 2011

“But you, our veterans of World War II, crossed the oceans and stormed the beaches and freed the millions, liberated the camps and showed the United States of America is the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.”
— remarks by Obama at the 93rd Annual Conference of the American Legion, Aug. 30, 2011

“These American patriots — all the services that are represented up here today, all of you who are out there today — you’re the reason why America and our Armed Forces remain the greatest force for peace and security that the world has ever known.”
— remarks by Obama at the White House Independence Day Celebration, July 4, 2011

“And in an uncertain world that demands our leadership, the United States of America, and our Armed Forces, will remain the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.”
— remarks by Obama at the Armed Services Farewell Tribute in Honor of Secretary Gates, June 30, 2011

“They are why our banner still waves, our founding principles still shine, and our country — the United States of America — still stands as a force for good all over the world.”
— remarks by Obama in awarding the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta, Nov. 16, 2010

“So on a whole host of initiatives that I’ve put forward this year, some of which are beginning to bear fruit, the goal is not to win a popularity contest or to get an award — even one as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize — the goal has been to advance America’s interests, to strengthen our economy at home, and to make ourselves a continuing force for good in the world — something that we’ve been for decades now.”
— remarks by Obama during a joint press availability in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009

“I think that the United States has been an enormous force for good in the world.
— remarks by Obama after meeting with President Bachelet of Chile, June 23, 2009

Bush is free, of course, to make the case that Obama’s deeds have not matched his words.  We don’t know what Obama “believes” (and neither does Bush), but we know what he says.  And he has repeatedly said that America’s leadership and presence in the world is a “force for good.”

THE NEW COLD WAR - Russia, Focus on Sea Cables

COMMENT:  Considering what Russia has done in Syria and Ukraine, this is further prof that the 'Cold War' in on again.  This is what happens when a nation is run by an ex-spymaster.


(this is from the online edition therefore no link)

Increased operations near vital communications link raise worries it could be cut

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some U.S. military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task U.S. intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago.  The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent.  While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior U.S. and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe.  At the same time, the internal debate in Washington illustrates how the United States is increasingly viewing every Russian move through a lens of deep distrust, reminiscent of relations during the Cold War.

Inside the Pentagon and the nation’s spy agencies, the assessments of Russia’s growing naval activities are highly classified and not publicly discussed in detail.  U.S. officials are secretive about what they are doing both to monitor the activity and to find ways to recover quickly if cables are cut.  But more than a dozen officials confirmed in broad terms that it had become the source of significant attention in the Pentagon.

“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet “I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing.”

Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific in the Pacific, who would not answer questions about possible Russian plans for cutting the undersea cables.

Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, said: “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.”

In private, however, commanders and intelligence officials are far more direct.  They report that from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to U.S. shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce.

Just last month, the Russian spy ship Yantar, equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea submersible craft, cruised slowly off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba— where one major cable lands near the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay.  It was monitored constantly by U.S. spy satellites, ships and planes.  Navy officials said the Yantar and the submersible vehicles it can drop off its decks have the capability to cut cables miles down in the sea.  “The level of activity,” a senior European diplomat said, “is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War.”

One NATO ally, Norway, is so concerned that it has asked its neighbors for aid in tracking Russian submarines.

Adm. James Stavridis, formerly NATO’s top military commander and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said in an email last week that “this is yet another example of a highly assertive and aggressive regime seemingly reaching backwards for the tools of the Cold War, albeit with a high degree of technical improvement.”

The operations are consistent with Russia’s expanding military operations into places like Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, where President Vladimir Putin has sought to demonstrate a much longer reach for Russian ground, air and naval forces.  “The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area,” said Michael Sechrist, a former project manager fora Harvard-MIT research project funded in part by the Defense Department.  “Cables get cut all the time — by anchors that are dragged, by natural disasters,” said Sechrist, who published a 2012 study of the vulnerabilities of the undersea cable network.  But most of those cuts take place within a few miles from shore, and can be repaired in a matter of days.

What worries Pentagon planners most is that the Russians appear to be looking for vulnerabilities at much greater depths, where the cables are hard to monitor and breaks are hard to find and repair.  Sechrist noted that the locations of the cables are hardly secret.  “Undersea cables tend to follow the similar path since they were laid in the 1860s,” he said, because the operators of the cables want to put them in familiar environments under long-standing agreements.

The exception are special cables, with secret locations, that have been commissioned by the United States for military operations; they do not show up on widely available maps, and it is possible the Russians are hunting for those, officials said.

The role of the cables is more important than ever before.  They carry more than $10 trillion a day in global business, including from financial institutions that settle their transactions on them every second.  Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital.  The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications.

So important are undersea cables that the Department of Homeland Security lists their landing areas — mostly around New York, Miami and Los Angeles— at the top of its list of “critical infrastructure.”

Attention to underwater cables is not new.  In October 1971, the U.S. submarine Halibut entered the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, found a telecommunications cable used by Soviet nuclear forces, and succeeded in tapping its secrets.  The mission, code-named Ivy Bells, was so secret that a vast majority of the submarine’s sailors had no idea what they had accomplished.  The success led to a concealed world of cable-tapping.

And a decade ago, the U.S. Navy launched the submarine Jimmy Carter, which intelligence analysts say is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on communications flowing through them.  Submarines are not the only vessels that are snooping on the undersea cables.  U.S. officials closely monitor the Yantar, which Russian officials insist is an oceanographic ship with no ties to espionage.  “The Yantar is equipped with a unique onboard scientific research complex which enables it to collect data on the ocean environment, both in motion and on hold.  There are no similar complexes anywhere,” said Alexei Burilichev, the head of the deepwater research department at the Russian Defense Ministry, according to in May 2015. U.S. concern over cablecutting is just one aspect of Russia’s modernizing navy that has drawn new scrutiny.  Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe, speaking in Washington this month said that the proficiency and operational tempo of the Russian submarine force was increasing.

Citing public remarks by the Russian navy chief, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, Ferguson said the intensity of Russian submarine patrols had risen by almost 50 percent over the last year.  Russia has increased its operating tempo to levels not seen in over a decade.  Russian Arctic bases and their $2.4 billion investment in the Black Sea Fleet expansion by 2020 demonstrate their commitment to develop their military infrastructure on the flanks, he said.

Russia is also building an undersea unmanned drone capable of carrying a small, tactical nuclear weapon to use against harbors or coastal areas, U.S. military and intelligence analysts said.

Sanger and Schmitt write for the NYT News Service.

“The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area. Cables get cut all the time — by anchors that are dragged, by natural disasters.”

Michael Sechrist, a former project manager for a Harvard-MIT research project

LOVE - Rebar, Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah:

As I traveled home I heard word my old girl Rebar was fading fast

I read in the newspaper that morning how a new quantum mechanics study proved entangled particles react simultaneously no matter the distance

Rebar was born crooked but that was OK with me
She lived a long life she had two beautiful babies
She was a natural and loving mother
and she nurtured many orphans after her babies grew up
This last year she had a best friend named Smitty he was a retired old guy, a big beautiful bay gelding
He shared Rebar's last meal with her, senior feed, alfalfa and carrots which I carefully bit into small enough bites for their old teeth
Smitty whimpered audibly, when after her meal, Rebar lay down in the tall grass in their pasture
I laid down with her while the sunset faded caressing and kissing her
Until she relaxed and eventually took her last breath
While I was laying in the grass crying and saying my goodbyes their caretaker, Buffy, took Smitty to his corral where he normally slept next to Rebar
I heard him screaming and stomping
I didn't realize he wasn't still in the pasture
I got up and we quickly returned him to the pasture realizing he needed closure
By now it was dark, the half-moon hanging low in the sky
We turned him loose into the pasture and he galloped wildly, hooves pounding so hard he flung off his shoes. He was screaming, not whinnying, but screaming for Rebar
We took the blanket off of Rebar so that he could see her and led him to where she lay
he instantly calmed
Put his nose to her nose
Then stood there over her Guarding her the rest of the night without moving

We are entangled in Love

Friday, October 23, 2015

WAR ON ISIS - Raid on IS Prison

"In rescue raid on Islamic State prison, U.S. military advisors step back onto Iraq battlefield" PBS NewsHour 10/22/2015


SUMMARY:  American and Kurdish forces raided an Islamic State prison in Northern Iraq after learning that captives there were facing imminent execution.  In all, 70 were freed, but one American soldier was killed -- the first U.S. military casualty since 2011.  To learn more about the operation, Gwen Ifill speaks with Michael Gordon of The New York Times.

POLITICS - Benghazi Saga

(aka "Republican 3 Year Attack Syndrome")

"Here’s what you should know about the deadly attack in Benghazi" PBS NewsHour 10/21/2015


SUMMARY:  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes before a congressional committee Thursday to offer testimony on the attacks that killed four people at the U.S. consulate and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reviews the details of the attack and the subsequent investigations.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, has sparked a firestorm of recrimination and accusation, touching on policy and politics.

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before a congressional committee about the attacks tomorrow, chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner catches us up on the facts of the case.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  This fiery scene at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took place three years ago, but it sparked a political war of words that’s still being fought.

Thirteen months after the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Benghazi was lawless and awash with guns.  The U.S. mission was protected by one local militia and unarmed contractor guards.  On the anniversary of 9/11, around 9:40 p.m., heavily armed men stormed the compound, opening fire and torching some of its buildings.

Hours later, a CIA annex less than a mile away came under mortar attack. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens died in the main compound, along with Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, apparently of smoke inhalation.  Two contractors, ex-Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died at the annex.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said U.S. commanders had no intelligence that an attack was coming on the Benghazi mission, and U.S. forces were too far away to help when it did.

LEON PANETTA, Former Secretary of Defense:  Frankly, without an adequate warning, there wasn’t enough time, given the speed of the attack, for armed military assets to respond.

MARGARET WARNER:  In the aftermath, the military did deploy elite teams of U.S. Marines from Rota, Spain, one to Benghazi to evacuate personnel, the other to fortify the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The Benghazi assault followed anti-U.S. protests that day in a half-dozen Islamic countries.  In Cairo, a mob breached the walls of the heavily-fortified U.S. Embassy, tearing down the U.S. flag.  No Americans were harmed.

All those protests were against an American citizen’s online movie mocking the Prophet Mohammed.  Five days later, on the Sunday talk shows, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice pointed to a linkage.

SUSAN RICE, National Security Adviser:  What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what had transpired in Cairo.

MARGARET WARNER:  But Republicans charged the White House knew almost immediately Benghazi was a terror attack, and concealed it to protect President Obama’s reelection campaign.

The administration insisted Ambassador Rice was speaking from the best information available at the time.  Four months later, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took on Senate Republicans at a hearing.

"Did we learn anything new from Clinton’s Benghazi testimony?" PBS NewsHour 10/22/2015


SUMMARY:  House Republicans grilled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the U.S. embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya.  Political director Lisa Desjardins recaps the sometimes tense and emotional hearing.  Judy Woodruff gets reaction from Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy Magazine and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post.

YOCHI DREAZEN, Foreign Policy:  So, some of the numbers just on the hearings, it’s astounding.  This is the 21st hearing on Benghazi.  By comparison, there were 22 public hearings on 9/11.

So, just to compare the two, 22 on 9/11, 21 on Benghazi.  The investigations are thought to have cost about $5 million.  This has been going on now 17 months.  It’s not clear to me or I think to really any observer what is new that could still be found.

They have already pulled out that there are things said publicly different from what were said privately, that there were security failures.  That has all been out for quite some time.  But there was one moment that I thought was very interesting.  She said back at one point to them that the response to this shouldn’t be that Washington decides, Democrat or Republican, that diplomacy is too dangerous, that it shouldn’t be something where America pulls out of dangerous places because of attacks like this.


"Fact checking Clinton and critics on Benghazi, emails" by Connie Cass and Calvin Woodward, Associated Press 10/22/2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

PANAMA CANAL - Debate in Florida

"How deepening the Panama Canal set off a fierce debate in Jacksonville" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2015


SUMMARY:  A number of port cities on the East Coast are taking steps to deepen their harbors, in an effort to attract bigger-than-ever cargo container ships expected to arrive as early as next year with the expansion of the Panama Canal.  It's all sparked fierce debate in Jacksonville, Florida, as port officials there fight to remain competitive. NewsHour's Megan Thompson reports.

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  It’s a typical, busy morning at the port in Jacksonville – Florida’s most populous city.  Vincent Cameron has worked on the docks here for 25 years.

VINCENT CAMERON (dock worker):  These boxes that are coming off these ships behind you have all types of cargo in them, and they go to all different destinations — from your Pier-1s, your Walmarts, your Targets, to your warehouses, to your factories, the paper mill, you name it.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  This massive port imports and exports some 8 million tons of cargo a year, worth around $33 billion dollars…generating almost $170 million in state and local taxes.  The Jacksonville port – called Jaxport for short – is a mid-size port, ranking 37th out of the 99 biggest U.S. ports by cargo volume.  But it’s also one of the fastest growing U.S. ports for exporting.

It ships more cars out of the U.S. than any other port in the country, and it’s a major import hub for companies like Disney, Bacardi, Maxwell house, and Samsonite.  The port is located just off the Atlantic Ocean on the St. Johns River.  When cargo comes in…it’s delivered quickly over three interstate highways even more freight train lines across the southeast United States.

VINCENT CAMERON:  Jacksonville is a port city.  You know, we derive our fruits from the labors that take place right here on these very docks.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Cameron, a third generation longshoreman, is one of nearly 10,000 people employed at the port…which supports thousands of jobs at local businesses, too.

VINCENT CAMERON:  It’s a big economic engine for the city of Jacksonville, and it needs to survive if the city is going to continue to thrive.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  To thrive in the global economy, Jaxport has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past decade to modernize and to compete with ports to the north, like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.  In 2009, the port completed a high-tech terminal with 275-foot tall cranes to reach across the decks of the largest ships that dock here.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 10/16/2015

"Shields and Brooks on campaign finance and what we learned in the Democratic debate" PBS NewsHour 10/16/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week’s news, including a look at the Democratic debate, campaign fundraising, and troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The Democratic candidates for president faced off in their first debate this week, and new fund-raising numbers give a closer look at which contenders are winning the money game.

For all that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, you watched the debate, obviously.  How was the tone different from this?  It seems that perhaps FOX News set the tone in a much more aggressive and sharp way for the questioners in this round.  Is that what we’re going to see throughout the cycle?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  I think that Democrats, generally speaking, felt better about their debates than probably Republicans did about theirs.

There is no question that Donald Trump brought big numbers and brought a certain level of suspense, and you kind of hold your breath at what’s going to happen to it.  But Martin O’Malley and — the former governor of Maryland, in one of his rare good moments on Tuesday night, pointed out that the Democrats had gone through an entire debate discussing issues with no personal attacks.  Nobody had been accused of being ugly or a loser, and there had been no racial stereotyping or negatives.

So I think, in that sense, there was an entirely — difference in tone.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  There was a difference in tone, a difference in subject matter.  I think the Democrats actually have the advantage of subject matter, because they actually did talk about middle-class concerns, whereas Republicans are talking about weird stuff.

But the other factor is, the Republicans are actually arguing and fighting with each other.  And what I saw up there was Hillary Clinton performing extremely well, and four other guys lying down and let her, letting her have the nomination.  It’s like Bernie Sanders held up the white flag of surrender when he refused to really go after her on the character and moral issue, which is his only way in.

And the other three, I don’t know why they were there. O’Malley was the one who surprised me the most.  I thought he would come in and see the Fiorina model and come out with some sort of aggressiveness.  He had a little toward the end, but in the beginning, it was just passive.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  How do you think Sanders did?

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I thought Hillary Clinton had the best night of her campaign.

I thought that she was in command, she was comfortable, she was spontaneous.  She came back from the break and was a little late getting to the stage, having obviously visited the ladies room, and kind of tossed a — gave the lie to the stereotype of the joyless feminist by pointing out it takes women a little bit longer to go to the lavatory.

And I just thought there was — it bordered on the authentic.  I thought she did very well. David is right. Campaigns are about differences.  And when you’re behind somebody, you better draw the differences with them, whether it’s in style, or substance, or record, or character.  And the others didn’t do that.

I thought Bernie had a — Bernie Sanders had a better night than David thinks he did, and I think it was reflected in the dial polls, which viewers watch it and their emotions and reactions are gauged.  It’s a very legitimate way of measuring people’s reaction.  People use it on speeches, presidential acceptance speeches and so forth.  He did well on that.  He did well on the focus groups.
MARK SHIELDS:  You can’t talk at the money, Hari, without talking about the concentration of big money in this campaign.

And The New York Times did a story last Sunday of 158 families in the United States that have given over half the money in this campaign.


MARK SHIELDS:  Citizens United, thank you, Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice(s) Scalia and Thomas and Kennedy.  I mean, this is truly oligarchy.

And people who worry about big money having too large a voice, this has given them a megaphone.  And the golden rule operates, where who he has the gold rules.  And it is truly terrifying for those who care about democracy.

CAMEROON - U.S. Troops

"U.S. sending troops to Cameroon to monitor Boko Haram" PBS NewsHour 10/16/2015


SUMMARY:  A series of suicide bombings rocked Nigeria today.  They come as the Obama administration announced 300 U.S. soldiers would be sent to neighboring Cameroon.  For more on the situation, Hari Sreenivasan speaks to Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The deadly attacks in Nigeria this week come as the Obama administration announced 300 U.S. soldiers would be sent to neighboring Cameroon.

For more on all this, I’m joined now by Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

What does the U.S. hope to accomplish here?  What kind of skills are we bringing?

PETER PHAM, Atlantic Council:  Well, two things, Hari, first to provide better intelligence on the increase in cross-border activity of Boko Haram.

It’s no longer just a threat in Nigeria, but the group is reaching into Niger, into Chad and into Cameroon, so to monitor those movements.  And then, secondly, to — once the full complement of the 300 U.S. personnel are there, to engage in some further training of Cameroon’s military.

Cameroon’s military has a unit, the so-called rapid reaction force, known by its French acronym BIR.  The BIR has been U.S.-trained, has had U.S. cooperation and equipment since 2009.  It’s one of the best military units in the region, and so bringing them up to speed, up to the level necessary to fight this new type of challenge that they’re facing.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And compare that to the rest of the neighborhood, so to speak, or their military capacity.

PETER PHAM:  Well, Nigeria has the largest military in terms of personnel in the region, but, since 1999, when the military ceded power back to civilian rule, in an effort to avoid future military coups, the Nigerian military was starved of resources.

And where the resources were allocated, it was primarily to build up peacekeeping capability.  And Nigeria has contributed very well to peacekeeping activities in Africa and places like Darfur, as well as elsewhere in the world.  But the skill sets in peacekeeping are entirely different from war fighting, much less the type of specialized warfare, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism that Boko Haram calls for.

Chad has a battle-seasoned army, but it again faces a new type of challenge in Boko Haram.  Niger is one of America’s best partners in Africa, but it’s a desperately poor country.  It’s been a good cooperation in security cooperation, but it needs our help.

So, really, we’re struggling to find the units that can be trained up to the standards we need.

BROKEN JUSTICE - Keeping Ex-Prisoners In Society

"Can a pilot program keep prisoners from going back to jail?" PBS NewsHour 10/16/2015


SUMMARY:  In the second part of our series looking at how prison recidivism can be reduced, NewsHour follows three inmates, Jordan Taylor, Carlos Colon and Ashley Wilson as they move from prison back to everyday life, in our series “Broken Justice.” William Brangham reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  But, first, last night, we introduced you to three inmates serving time at a maximum security jail in Southern Maryland.  All three were part of a pilot jobs program aimed at teaching them the skills to stay out of prison after their release.

Tonight, a look at their struggles and successes as they try to do just that.

William Brangham continues our report.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Twenty-year-old Jordan Taylor is about to be a free man.  He changes out of his county-issued jumpsuit, and back into the clothes he was wearing the day he got locked up over a year ago for violating probation on an armed robbery charge

MAN:  What’s your name sir?

JORDAN TAYLOR:  Jordan Taylor.

MAN:  Good luck to you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  And with that, he’s done, and he heads out to the open arms of his parents and older brother.

JORDAN TAYLOR:  Are you all right, mom?  You know I was coming home, mom.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  For the past several months, we have been following Jordan and two other prisoners, Carlos Colon and Ashley Wilson, as they transition from a life behind bars to a life outside them.  Will they fall back into a life of crime, or will they manage to start over?

This isn’t an idle question, because, as the number of people behind bars in the U.S. has skyrocketed from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.2 million today, so has the cost of incarcerating them.  It now costs taxpayers roughly $80 billion a year.

Now there’s a strong bipartisan push to do something about this trend.  And one of the key efforts is to reduce recidivism.  Right now, two-thirds of convicts end up getting rearrested within three years of their release.  So the goal is to somehow stop that revolving prison door from spinning.

Unlike a lot of newly-released prisoners, Jordan Taylor has a pretty big welcome mat laid out for him.  He’s back at home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with his mom and dad.  They have been married 26 years.  His longtime girlfriend, Shawna, also is thrilled to have him back.

Ex-prisoners with strong support systems do better, lower rates of drug use, higher employment, and less criminal activity.

Broken Justice Series:

WORLD - Social Entrepreneurs

"How social entrepreneurs are changing the world" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2015


SUMMARY:  In “Getting Beyond Better,” Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, explores how social entrepreneurs can confront the status quo to improve the lives of others in real, measurable ways.  She sits down for a conversation with economics correspondent Paul Solman.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Sally Osberg, welcome.

SALLY OSBERG, Author, “Getting Beyond Better”:  Thank you, Paul.  It’s wonderful to be here.

PAUL SOLMAN:  You write about the key to social entrepreneurship being an equilibrium shift.  What do you mean?

SALLY OSBERG:  It’s a status quo in which — which affects everybody.

But it takes the entrepreneur to see how to shift that status quo.  Think of Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  There’s this Internet full of information, and yet there’s no ability for the ordinary person to search out and retrieve what she or he wants to know.

They develop a search engine, Google.  The rest is history, right?  The difference is that the social entrepreneur also understands that this equilibrium, this status quo, is affecting some marginalized population in some very significant way, and that population very rarely has the power or the means to effect the transition on its own.  Enter the social entrepreneur.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Like Molly Melching, whose organization Tostan, has been working in West African villages for 30 years now on human rights issues, most notably, eliminating the painful and dangerous 2,000-year-old practice of female genital mutilation.

SALLY OSBERG:  Something that seems pretty horrific to many of us in the West.

By the way, I have a Kiva account since 2008.  Kiva's suggested loan amount is $25.  I started with $100 which I relended (after loan is paid off) and increased.  Every lone, so far, has been paid back.  I would encourage you to join Kiva.

SLEEP - How Much Do You Really Need?

"These hunter-gatherer tribes sleep less than you, and sleep better" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2015


SUMMARY:  By studying the habits of three hunter-gatherer groups who live much the way humans have for thousands of years, a team of scientists is challenging conventional wisdom about how much sleep we need.  Hari Sreenivasan goes to UCLA to learn more about getting enough rest and to do something he's never done on assignment before: falling asleep while on the job.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  ..... just how much sleep do you really need?  There’s been plenty of concern, as people spend more time looking at their screens ever later into the night.

Previous research has shown that a lack of sleep is associated with a series of problems, ranging from lack of concentration to health effects like obesity and heart disease.

But a new study out today finds seven or eight hours a night may not be as essential as we think.

I went to California to learn more.

They are among the last hunter-gatherers in the world, the Hadza of Northern Tanzania, the San of Namibia’s Kalahari Desert, and in the Andean foothills of Bolivia the Chimane.

By studying the sleep habits of these three groups, who still live the way humans have for thousands of years, a team of scientists led by UCLA’s Jerry Siegel is challenging conventional wisdom about how much sleep we need.

JERRY SIEGEL, Director, UCLA Center for Sleep Research:  It’s absolutely incorrect to think that the more you sleep, the healthier you’re going to be.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The study, reported today in the journal “Current Biology” says we in the industrialized world sleep as much as our ancestors did.

JERRY SIEGEL:  There’s been speculation that humans basically used to sleep when it got dark, which would mean they’d sleep 10, 11, even 12 hours.  But it turns out that’s not the case.  These groups sleep five, six, seven hours.  None of them average over eight hours of sleep.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Just like us, when the sun sets, these people do not go right to sleep.

JERRY SIEGEL:  There’s a thin yellow line here that indicates the light level, and you can see also that they remain awake.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  In fact, regardless of what time they go to bed, all three groups, on different parts of the planet, wake up exactly when one very specific thing happens.  And, no, it’s not the sunrise.

JERRY SIEGEL:  They’re sleeping as the temperature falls, and they seem to quite consistently wake up at the lowest point of temperature in the day.  So, when the temperature stops falling, that’s when they wake up.

There’s been a lot of emphasis on light and the effects of light, and there’s no question that light affects sleep.  But light may have been connected to sleep largely because of its connection to temperature.

AFGHANISTAN - Decision, U.S. Troops Stay

"What influenced Obama’s decision to keep troops in Afghanistan" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2015


SUMMARY:  The longest-running war in American history will go on even longer than expected.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks to the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe about what prompted President Obama to change course and decide to leave troops in Afghanistan.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We get more on today’s announcement from Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe.

Greg, how did he get to this decision?

GREG JAFFE, The Washington Post:  You know, in the spring, they started a review to decide what they were going to do.  The plan had been to go to essentially a Kabul-based force, a small force.

And I think most in the administration, especially the president’s inner circle, seemed to think that that’s where they were going to land.  The discussions carried on through the summer.  In August, General Dempsey came forward, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — he just recently stepped down — with a plan for a sustaining force of about 5,000 focused on counterterrorism.

And it was then, it seemed to me, that the debate changed, and the President seemed open to that.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  So what were the tensions here?  Is this partly the political pressure of making a campaign promise to get the country out of this war, and then the military reality on the ground, where all his top advisers are saying something different?

GREG JAFFE:  You know, I don’t think politics played a big role in it.  I think the President has a real skepticism about military forces’ ability to effect solutions in places like Afghanistan, so he’s a really hard sell on these sorts of issues, just because he doesn’t think military force fixes the problems, that they’re really political problems.  No military solutions has sort of become a mantra.

So, it took a lot of convincing to bring him around, I think.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, if you have insight to this, what was the menu card of options that the generals presented him, here’s A, here’s B, here’s C?  What were his choices?

GREG JAFFE:  You know, I think that the main choices, as I understand them, were there was an option to essentially stay at 9,800, where they are, indefinitely.

The real choice and the real focus of the debate in terms of a sustaining presence beyond 2016 into 2017 was really this 5,500 option.  That was the one that sucked most of the oxygen in the room.  That was the one that they really focused on.

POLITICS - About Capitalism

"Why It Matters That Bernie Sanders Forced a Debate About Capitalism on National TV" by Miles Kampf-Lassin, In These Times 10/14/2015

Facing rampant inequality and poverty, a substantive debate on socialism versus capitalism is exactly what the United States needs right now.

Tuesday night’s Democratic debate was largely devoid of the personal swipes and party-line litmus tests that have dominated those on the Republican side.  And there was no candidate on stage commanding the star-power of savvy bigot Donald Trump.

One test that was laid out early in the debate, however, has real implications for the future of the Democratic Party, and of the role of the Left in U.S. electoral politics:  The question of identifying as a socialist or capitalist.

That a U.S. presidential debate in 2015 would feature any substantive discussion on the merits of socialism versus capitalism is itself astounding, especially when compared to the language of presidential contests in 2008 and 2012, when the socialist label was frequently hurled at Barack Obama as an insult meant to summon images of gulags and work camps.  Since at least the Cold War era, a subscription to capitalism has been taken as a given for both major political parties.

But here we are, with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton digging into the virtues of the disparate economic and social models on national television, watched by some 15.3 million viewers.

Debate host Anderson Cooper began his questioning of Bernie Sanders by asking:  “How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?”  Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist, answered by making the case for a more egalitarian society where not just income but social services and healthcare are provided democratically, regardless of stature or position:

What democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.  That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States.  You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we're not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have—we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

When Sanders was asked if he considers himself a capitalist, he responded:  “Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?  No, I don’t.  I believe in a society where all people do well.  Not just a handful of billionaires.”  (This was a particularly ironic moment of the debate: Sanders was lambasting casino capitalism while literally debating inside a Las Vegas casino.)

Cooper then opened the question to the rest of the candidates, asking “Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?,” leading Clinton to fire back in defense:

When I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.

And I don't think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself.  And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have.

But we are not Denmark.  I love Denmark.  We are the United States of America.  And it's our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn't run amok and doesn't cause the kind of inequities we're seeing in our economic system.

This defense of capitalism by the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was anything but full-throated.  In recognizing that the system was so flawed that it must be “saved from itself,” she sounded more like former Greek finance minister (and self-described “erratic Marxist”) Yanis Varoufakis than a traditional mainstream American politician.

As Elizabeth Bruenig points out at the New Republic, Sanders and Clinton have fundamentally different visions of how our economy should be structured:  Sanders’ is an egalitarian “pro-equality platform” advocating a more expansive welfare state, while Clinton’s is a Horatio-Alger style “opportunity-focused approach” emphasizing increasing social-mobility.

This divergence was on full display last night.  When asked if Clinton agreed with Sanders that Social Security should be expanded, for example, she refused to give a definitive “yes,” instead advocating defending and “enhancing” the government-run welfare program, rather than across-the-board expansion as Sanders proposes.

While this discussion remains a far cry from the Democratic Party distancing itself from its embrace of capitalism (something that will almost assuredly never happen), the debate—and level of grassroots support behind Sanders—show that this reckoning could have serious effects on how the party positions itself on economic issues in the future.

And the inclusion in the Sanders campaign of leftists generally critical of the electoral political process means the pressure to continue discussing the benefits of socialism and drawbacks of capitalism will likely continue within the campaign as well.  The many activists and organizers who are working in the Sanders camp with a robust critique of corporate capitalism will continue to inform how the campaign constructs messaging to voters.

And even if Sanders does not win the nomination or presidency, the political education happening across the country through his campaign around issues of gross economic inequality, climate devastation and social injustice means there will almost certainly be more interrogation of capitalism than at any time in recent memory.

Sanders is the first candidate to bring in one million donations this early in a presidential race.  He is leading in multiple polls in the early primary voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.  And, as pundits, donors and attendees to his massive rallies will tell you, he is the Democratic candidate with the most energy right now.

As he continues to talk about the benefits of his brand of democratic socialism in contrast to our current capitalist system characterized by massive inequality and poverty, he will have a rapt—and activated—audience.

Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner, and is a defender of capitalism.  As her recently taken positions against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Keystone XL pipeline show, she can be moved.  But if the kind of commonsense discussion about democratic socialism that Sanders helped lead last night continues to catch on, the Democratic Party itself could be forced to move closer to Bernie.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

DEMOCRATIC DEBATE - Clinton vs Sanders

"Clinton and Sanders dominate policy-deep Democratic debate" PBS NewsHour 10/14/2015


SUMMARY:  The first Democratic debate between five presidential candidates sharpened into a two-person heavyweight match between between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over capitalism and gun control.  Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Democratic candidates for president got back on the campaign trail today after an issues-packed debate last night.

Political director Lisa Desjardins reports on what we learned from their first five-way face-to-face encounter.

ANDERSON COOPER, Moderator:  Please welcome the Democratic candidates for president of the United States.

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  The five-person Las Vegas stage quickly morphed into a two-person heavyweight match, as Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders was asked if he is also a capitalist.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate:  Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process, by which so few have so much, and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?  No, I don’t.

LISA DESJARDINS:  It was a symbolic start to a policy deep-debate, and Hillary Clinton moved to critique, but defend the system.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate:  It’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism, but we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.

ANDERSON COOPER:  Senator Sanders?

LISA DESJARDINS:  Clinton pointed to her experience.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON:  I’m a progressive.  But I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.  And I know…


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON:  … how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground, and I have proved that in every position that I have had.

LISA DESJARDINS:  She soon went on offense, highlighting Sanders’ vote against a prominent gun control bill.

"3 things from the Democratic debate you couldn’t see on TV" by Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour 10/14/2015

The Democratic debate in Las Vegas exceeded its expectations in hitting on substance.  But as pundits trade thoughts on who was strong (Clinton), who was solid (Sanders) and who else was on stage (O’Malley, Webb, Chafee), we want to point out a few things that you didn’t see on TV.

1. Team Clinton was very happy, then ecstatic.  As the debate clock ticked, Hillary Clinton’s team increasingly felt they had a clear win.  By the time reporters hit the spin room, in one-on-one conversations they were cautiously very happy.  And within minutes — as the reverberating ballroom of opinion seemed to confirm their instinct — they moved to confident campaign joy, which in turn added to the zeitgeist.  Which in turn added to this morning’s headlines.

2. Democrats had fewer heavyweights in their spin room than the GOP.  Sure, this is partially due to the 5 to 16 ratio of candidates between the parties, but even so, one might expect candidates of Clinton’s and Sanders’s clout (as well as O’Malley’s, Webb’s and Chafee’s experience) to have a few more ringers in the spin room.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., working the room for Team Clinton may have been the most well-known national figure with a bias.  Republicans, in addition to their platoon of formers running for the White House, saw more faces like that of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and current House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Raul Labrador in the mix.

3. Message at odds with venue.  Democrats wisely chose Las Vegas as a way to shore up their strength in the purplish state.  It played to their union base in one of the American labor movement’s most concentrated cities.  But those same dynamics also exposed a seemingly less-intended contrast.  As Democrats prepared to debate, staff and press were surrounded by both opulence and struggle.  Hotel wait staff brought rounds of beautiful cake pops on trays to journalists, some of whom gazed at the treats as though they were being shown tiny magic tricks.  With every step through over-the-top Vegas and the $600-a-night Wynn hotel, it was hard to miss the contrast between an elite talking about, and writing about, inequality and those struggling and not seeming to reap many direct benefits from the debate’s presence.  (Though overtime hours may count.)

U.S. SUPREME COURT - Book "The Court and the World"

"What a more interconnected world means for the Supreme Court" PBS NewsHour 10/14/2015


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court is often the final say on major domestic conflicts of our time.  But what about when foreign law crosses paths with our legal system?  Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his new book, "The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities."

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Supreme Court of the United States is often the final say on the major domestic conflicts of the day, from voting rights to gay marriage and health care.

But when foreign law crosses paths with our legal system, how should the Supreme Court proceed?

Justice Stephen Breyer, who has served on the court for over two decades, examines this in his new book, “The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities.”

And Justice Breyer joins me now.

Welcome to the NewsHour.

STEPHEN BREYER, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court:  Thank you very much.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It’s great to have you with us.

So, with so many complicated issues before this Supreme Court, why did you take the time to focus on how it’s affected by what’s going on in other countries?

STEPHEN BREYER:  Well, I have noticed that, over the course of the last 20 years, we have more and more cases, maybe now 15 or 20 percent, where what goes on beyond our shores is directly relevant to our making a sound decision on the American legal question before us.

They range from security problems, Guantanamo, to human rights problems, victims of tortures, to commercial problems, copyright, antitrust, securities law, domestic relations, marriages that are governed by treaty.  They’re all over the place.

And I wanted to show people, concretely, in the case of our institution, what that general word, interdependence, means.

STREET FASHION - Sartorialist

"How the Sartorialist makes street style click" PBS NewsHour 10/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Scott Schuman, better known as the Sartorialist, captures examples of street style around the world to post on his popular blog.  He’s not documenting not fashion trends exactly, but something more individual and personal.  Jeffrey Brown talked to the photographer, author of the upcoming "The Sartorialist: X," during New York Fashion Week.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  A casually stylish woman on a SoHo, New York, street, and Scott Schuman was there to grab the shot.  It was one of many photographs he would take this day, examples of street style that Schuman captures around the world, not fashion trends or brands exactly, but something more individual and personal.

SCOTT SCHUMAN, Creator, The Sartorialist Blog:  I bet if you stand right on the edge a little bit, turn rights towards me.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Something Schuman saw, for example, in this blue-haired young man.

SCOTT SCHUMAN:  I think this was the thing that first caught my eye was this.  Color is one thing, but there was actually a lot of nice little texture in the shirt, the hair, and, you know, there was something sweet.

At the end of the day, there was just something sweet about him.  There was something that you thought you could capture.  I mean, look, the quality of the expression on his face.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Later, a photograph of the young man showed up on The Sartorialist, the blog Schuman launched 10 years ago.  It’s become a go-to, must-see site for millions around the world, both in and out of the fashion industry.

Schumann, now 47, didn’t pick up a camera in a serious way until he was a 31-year-old stay-at-home dad taking photos of his kids at the park.  He’d worked in the fashion industry for many years.  It was an interest that started early, as a teenager in the suburbs of Indianapolis.

MH17 - The Crash Report

"MH17 crash report findings sharpen suspicions and denials" PBS NewsHour 10/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which crashed last July in Eastern Ukraine, was likely blown apart by a Russian-built missile, according to Dutch investigators.  The safety board also concluded that the missile was shot from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.  But the Russian state arms producer that makes Buk missiles disputed the findings.  Judy Woodruff reports.

"How Dutch investigators traced the MH17 missile back to its source" PBS NewsHour 10/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Dutch investigators say evidence from the blast that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 points to a Russian-built missile.  Judy Woodruff discusses the findings with Peter Goelz, former managing director of the NTSB.

INTERNET - Encryption Wars

"Why tech companies may be winning the encryption argument" PBS NewsHour 10/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Ever since (traitor) Edward Snowden released information about the extent of secret U.S. surveillance, a battle has been growing between tech companies and the government over access to data.  New reports suggest the Obama administration may be backing down on its demands over encryption.  William Brangham speaks to David Sanger of The New York Times.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Ever since (traitor) Edward Snowden released a mountain of information about the extent of U.S. government secret surveillance, the battle has been growing between tech companies and the government over access to data.

One of the major fronts in that battle has been the decision by Apple, Google, Microsoft and others to lock down, or encrypt, data on smartphones and digital devices.

But new reports say the Obama administration may be backing down from its demands.

William Brangham has the story.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  For months now, the Obama administration has said it’s essential to be able to occasionally access messages, texts and photos that are sent on today’s smartphones.  But many of the latest devices give individual users the power to control their data and block others from seeing it.

Until recently, law enforcement has argued that this encryption is making it increasingly hard to track terrorists or criminals who are using these devices to communicate with each other.

For example, this is what Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told a Senate hearing this summer:

SALLY YATES, Deputy Attorney General:  ISIL currently communicates on Twitter, sending communications to thousands of would-be followers right here in our country.  When someone responds and the conversations begin, they are then directed to encrypted platforms for further communication.

And even with a court order, we can’t see those communications.  This is a serious threat, and our inability to access these communications with valid court orders is a real national security problem.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  This past week the Obama administration has apparently backed off on some of its demands to gaining access to our digital devices.

David Sanger has been reporting on this for The New York Times.  And he joins me now.

David Sanger, welcome.

DAVID SANGER, The New York Times:  Thanks.  Good to be with you, William.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The term of art here is encryption.  And for those who haven’t been following this debate very closely, could you just give us a quick primer?  What is encryption?

DAVID SANGER:  Well, encryption is a sophisticated version of what you did when you made codes when you were a kid.

It is taking the data that’s in your phone and wrapping it in a code so that if somebody got ahold of that phone, if they didn’t know the key, they couldn’t de-encrypt it.  And sometimes conversations are encrypted or data is encrypted when it’s moving across a telephone wire as well.

Note the last high-lighted sentence, that means terrorists can hide.